This is the forty-third part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.
Things didn’t all turn out bad of course. Barbara managed to get my name down for the furlough scheme, even though I had already stopped working there for a few days. She said they would be none the wiser, and that they would pay eighty percent of my wages until it was all over. So I didn’t have to go cap in hand to Olly for more money.
And his move fell through. Someone along the chain of buyers and sellers pulled out, so they got stuck in Lauren’s house for the duration. That meant he had no reason to try to cut my money, or force me to sell the house now that Leah wasn’t attending the day centre. I thought it was a nice twist of fate that this pandemic was changing my luck.
As for Leah, she didn’t seem to be aware of any changes. Sitting in a chair at home was probably no different to being in a chair at the day centre, even if I was washing her hands ten times a day. And she got to go out sometimes, as I had to take her when I went shopping for groceries. I didn’t even attempt to make her wear a mask, and when the staff running the queue outside the doors took one look at me leading her on a set of reins, they just waved me through.
I had tried to get the food delivered by ordering online. But because I wasn’t an existing customer, the delivery dates were weeks ahead. Dad said I should tell them about Leah, so they would make an exception, but in all honesty it was nice to get out, if only to wander round in a supermarket or two.
Dad phoned every day, and said he didn’t mind being at home at all. He only ever came to see me, or went to a few Round Table meetings a year anyway, so he kept himself busy in his shed, with all sort of projects that he didn’t go into detail about. Ronnie had jumped at the excuse not to visit him, saying he was in his bubble with miss skinny and her parents, so couldn’t visit others. Because he worked for a DIY company, he still went into work, but apparently his girlfriend was furloughed like me.
Most early evenings, I would look at the news reports on my laptop, trying to make some sense of the changes, and the way that the medical people seemed to keep altering their advice. Things were getting bad, and a lot of people were dying. But as me and Leah rarely saw anyone else except in a supermarket, and we stuck to the rules, I was convinced we would be alright.
Still, after being out and about delivering flowers and helping out at the shop, I did start to feel more like a prisoner in my own home than ever before. I had hoped that Barbara would keep the deliveries going, but she said most of her business was actually people walking into the shop, and it wasn’t worth her paying the bills to keep it open just for the deliveries. And there was some government deal on deferring her rent and business rates, so she saw it as a long holiday.
Leah had a lockdown birthday, for her eighteenth. Ronnie forgot it, as usual. Dad sent a lovely card, and even Olly made the effort, having a big box of cookies and assorted cakes delivered with a card. Not that Leah needed any more to eat. I had resorted to walking her around circuits of the garden to give her some exercise, but it was only a small garden. I bought her a card of course, but couldn’t see the point of a real present that she would be unaware of. So I ordered a pair of helium balloons from Amazon, numbers one and eight, and stood them in front of her chair, hoping the sight of them might at least give her something different to look at.
Sitting watching her ignore the waving balloons, it felt very strange to know that I had an eighteen year old daughter who didn’t even know who I was. But I didn’t allow myself to cry.
In case I never stopped.